By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
It was revealed earlier this week that the “Chao Phraya for All” project will cut by half the originally planned 14-kilometres long above-river promenade with separated riverside open spaces.
The revision in plan follows objections from the powerful Committee for the Rattanakosin and Old Cities Conservation and Development.
The latest meeting of the committee concluded that the original plan for the Chao Phraya Riverside Promenade project would have too many negative impacts on the river and the historic sites along it, said Atchaphon Dusitnanon, a committee member and also chairman of the Association of Siamese Architects.
The historic areas of Rattanakosin Island are under the authority of the committee, which is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.
At the recent meeting, Prawit suggested that the proposed area of the project be downsized to avoid negative impacts on the |historic areas of Rattanakosin Island.
The committee concluded that the proposed project area should be shortened from the original 14 kilometres along the river – from Rama VII Bridge south to Phra Pinklao Bridge – to a revised length of seven kilometres – from Rama VII Bridge down to Bang Sue Canal.
They also called for a change in the design from a long, above-river promenade to separated riverside open spaces that will allow people to access the river.
According to an earlier report, the original Chao Phraya Riverside promenade plan would have affected at least 36 piers, 29 riverside communities, 19 landmarks, eight religious places, eight official agencies’ offices, eight schools and six restaurants.
The original scope of the project also passed areas under the control of the Royal Household Bureau – Sukhothai Palace and Tha Wasukri Royal Shipyard.
“It was the unanimous view at the meeting of the Rattanakosin and Old Cities Conservation and Development Committee that there would be too much impact on the river and historic |heritage along the way, if the |project proceeds as originally planned. So Prawit suggested |that the BMA [Bangkok Metropolitan Administration] revise the plan to ensure that the development of the riverside area suits all stakeholders,” Atchaphon said.
The BMA, however, appeared to ignore the committee’s decision.
BMA Public Works Department director Nat Srisukhontanan said the city government has not officially acknowledged the change of plan suggested by the Rattanakosin and Old Cities Conservation Committee, so the promenade project was proceeding as per the original plan.
“The BMA is now waiting for approval from the Interior Ministry to open the e-bidding process to find the project builder, but we cannot yet answer when the ministry will approve the bidding or when the construction would start,” Nat said.
As per the latest BMA update, the first phase of the Chao Phraya Riverside Promenade project was divided into four contracts with a total budget of Bt8.362 billion, of which the Cabinet had so far approved Bt495 million.
Also, 285 families in 10 riverside communities have been relocated to pave the way for project construction.
The project has faced several delays since its announcement in 2015, at which time it was originally scheduled for completion by July 2017.
Opposition group pleased
Prominent opposition was organised by the Friend of the River group.
Group member Yossapon Boonsom said he was pleased to hear that the project size and scope could be adjusted to mitigate adverse impacts on the river, but he also suspected that the conclusions of the Rattanakosin and Old Cities Conservation and Development Committee had not been made official and could be changed.
“I suggest that there should be an official statement from the committee about this conclusion as soon as possible and I also |would like to urge the BMA to revise all the plans and allow all stakeholders, including the local people, to jointly plan development of the riverside area,” Yossapon said.
Atchaphon seconded Yossapon’s suggestions.
He is sure though, that even though there was still no official statement on the conclusion of the committee, a top government leader of Prawit’s stature would not allow his own words to be twisted.
An official statement on the issue would be issued soon, Atchaphon said.